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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, September 11, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time. H. L. Mencken

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Tour de France Stage 12 team reports

We posted the organizer's stage twelve summary with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Marc Hirschi's Team Sunweb:

From before lockdown with magnificent performances in Australia and Paris-Nice, to great shows at Milano-Sanremo, Bretagne Classic and the early stages of the Tour de France, Team Sunweb put the icing on top of the cake today with an incredible stage victory for debutant Marc Hirschi on stage twelve of the Tour de France.

Marc Hirschi

Marc Hirschi attacks. Sirotti photo

As the bunch rolled out for the longest stage of the race, it was expected that today’s stage would be one for the breakaway. As expected, a plethora of attacks flew from the bunch at the start of the day, with the team rotating turns and being incredibly active to follow any dangerous looking move.

However, on a narrow bit of road a four rider group went clear before another duo bridged the gap to form a six rider group out front. With all Team Sunweb riders in the bunch, focus switched to the hilly finale and a plan was hatched.

With opposition teams keeping the breakaway close, the race was all back together as it headed into the final 40 kilometres of the stage and it was at that point that Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen launched a two-up attack, very reminiscent of the team’s success in Paris-Nice earlier in the year.

Behind, Marc Hirschi was once again sprightly and attentive, following a dangerous move from Jungels. Kragh Andersen and Benoot sat up before Hirschi attacked and dropped Jungels, bridging to his teammates ahead. The Team Sunweb trio made up half of the six rider group at the head of the race, with Benoot and Kragh Andersen selflessly riding on the front on the lower slopes of the last climb to increase that gap to the chasers as much as possible.

After Soler made a probing move from the group, Hirschi immediately countered, showing a clean pair of heels and immediately getting a gap. With inspiration from the car behind, Hirschi dug deep and carried on over the steep gradients, cresting the climb with 25 kilometres to go with a 17 second lead to the two chasers.

Undeterred, Hirschi utilised his incredible descending skills to further increase his lead, while the two chasing groups behind merged. Kragh Andersen was in there for the team, where he was joined by Nicholas Roche, with both riders doing a fantastic teammate’s job of policing the move and disrupting any chase.

Out front, Hirschi just kept riding to his own rhythm and with the gap stabilising at around 40 seconds with just five kilometres to go, he and the team were destined for stage success. Entering the final few hundred metres with a smile from cheek-to-cheek, Hirschi raised his arms aloft in celebration to take a truly remarkable team win.

Behind, Kragh Andersen won the sprint for third place, fist bumping as he crossed the line, with Roche bouncing back from his injuries to take a strong tenth place – rounding out what was a spectacular team display.

“The plan for today was to go for the breakaway, we really wanted to be there,” smiled a jubilant Hirschi after the stage. “At the start we saw that CCC and Bora really controlled the race so we switched our tactics. Then we decided that Søren and Tiesj would go on the Category-3 climb and I would wait until the next climb. It was the plan that I followed Alaphilippe or the other big guys. Then at a moment I saw there was a lot more jumping from the bunch and just went for it and followed Jungels. The guys sat up ahead and brought me to the front and then the gap opened and we went full gas, before I then attacked on the last climb. I’m happy that I had the confidence to go there, because without the last few stages where we were so close to the win, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go for it today. I just went all out. I didn’t believe I would make it until the last kilometre; it is a dream come true.”

A thrilled Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston added: “It was a really good performance today by the whole team and everyone fully committed to the plan for the finale. It was great to see them ride with so much confidence in each other. We wanted to make it hard on the third category climb, where Søren and Tiesj a brilliant job after some great position by our sprint guys, where they put them into a position where they could attack. Marc then followed across and we had three guys in a group of six. We knew it would be tough on the second category climb so Marc made his move there. Nico and Søren were in a group of chasers and they did a fantastic job of just blocking behind, not letting anyone else jump across to Marc, and Marc was able to solo to the finish. It was a super team effort. After all our hard work in the stages before, it is really nice victory.”

GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team had this to say about the day's racing:

Primoz Roglic is also the overall leader after the twelfth stage in the Tour de France. The leader of Team Jumbo-Visma finished in Sarran in the slipstream of his teammates in the reduced peloton, at two and a half minutes from stage winner Hirschi.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic being escorted by his teammates. Sirotti photo

In the longest stage of this Tour de France, the peloton raced at a high average speed. Team Jumbo-Visma controlled the stage and kept Roglic in the front. In the end, the team did not get involved in the battle for the stage victory.

“It was not an easy stage”, Roglic said. “And it was certainly not a quiet day. We expected that a large breakaway would get away from the start, but some teams had other plans. We raced at a high pace all stage long. Especially at the end, on the climbs. The team has again kept me in the front. This was a good day for us.”

Roglic is looking forward with confidence to the upcoming trilogy in the mountains. “Tomorrow’s stage will be much more difficult than today’s. It will be tough, with the sequence of climbs and the mountaintop finish. I expect the necessary attacks and a fight for the GC on the final climb. The team is very strong and we have to keep riding like we have been doing the entire Tour. I am looking forward to it.”

Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

On the longest day of the Tour de France, the 218km distance wasn’t the only thing that would be weighing on the peloton’s mind – there was also the four categorised climbs and the fact that the undulating parcours would give the Classics riders a chance to push for a win on a stage that would be tougher for the sprinters – but only if they made it over the second category Suc au May, 25km before the finish line.

Today’s intermediate sprint was 51km from the start, and so the points contest contenders were trying to keep attempts to break away under control and while there were four riders making their way up the road, others were trying to bridge, forming a group of six. With these riders taking the bulk of the intermediate sprint points, Peter Sagan took third from the bunch to add seven to his total. Controlling the pace much of the day, BORA-hansgrohe were making sure the sprinters were going to be too tired to contest the finale, while also keeping Peter safe over the climbs. The gap was coming down gradually, from 1:45 at 100km to go, to 50 seconds with 50km remaining then 25 seconds a few kilometres later, before making the catch shortly after.

From here, the attacks started, Maximilian Schachmann joining one move to chase down a solo rider, with others going off at the same time. The gaps on the road were slim but the peloton was being distanced, with Maximilian’s group 30 seconds behind, a third large group almost a minute back, but the peloton was almost two minutes behind. With the third group bridging to Maximilian’s, there was strength in numbers to try and bring the solo rider on the front back in, but as the kilometres dropped lower, it was clear the catch wasn’t going to be made. Fighting it out amongst the rest of the chasing group, Max took sixth after a hard day’s effort.

In the peloton, with the majority of sprinters having been dropped from the hard efforts on the final climb, Peter Sagan took first from the bunch, recovering well from the day’s efforts to push for the last remaining points.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan is still fighting to get back in green. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
We didn't have a very specific plan today, it was more about how the race would develop in the first kilometres. Actually, we expected a bigger breakaway group, maybe 20-25 riders, since it was one of the last chances the Classics guys have in this Tour de France. Suddenly, four riders were gone and the bunch already slowed down, so we decided to control the race for Peter. In the final kilometres, the race unfolded as a pretty hard one when Sunweb started to accelerate in the penultimate categorised climb. I followed and I fought till the finish. Peter had already told me that if it was going to be fast, I shouldn't wait for him and just go for myself, and I knew how fast Peter can go in the climbs. We might have had some bad moments but this isn't a reason to give up, it just makes us fight in order to have good moments again." - Maximilian Schachmann

"We tried to control and only let a small group go in the break. That worked out well and from that point we controlled the race until the climbs where we were very concentrated on following any attacks with Max and Lennard while the rest of the guys would help Peter. That also worked out well, Max followed the first attacks and was in the first group, Lennard was in the one behind and Peter stayed with the peloton. In the end, especially in the climbs, some riders were maybe stronger today. Hirschi went away, Max was able to follow and stay for a long time with Soler behind him. Unfortunately, they couldn't close the gap and a bigger group caught them. Max took sixth on the line, everybody worked well but, again, no victory." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

Here's what Egan Bernal's Team INEOS Grenadiers had to say about the stage:

Egan Bernal remains in second position at the Tour de France, 21 seconds off the race lead following the longest stage of the race.

Egan bErnal

Egan Bernal remains in the White Jersey, in second place. Sirotti photo

Stage 12 always looked set to play into the hands of a breakaway and so it proved, with Bernal finishing in a relaxed peloton, two minutes and 33 seconds back on solo victor Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb).

With two upcoming summit finishes from the next three stages, the peloton were content to hold back and allow a large group to go clear.

Bernal was well protected by his INEOS Grenadiers teammates across the undulating stage, before crossing the line alongside race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).

Egan Bernal:
“There was not the battle for the GC today. The whole day we were thinking about the bonus seconds that were there on the final climb. The breakaway has stayed away. It was a really hard day. Bora were pulling really hard for Sagan and the fight for the green jersey. Tomorrow we will feel it in the legs.

“We have seen tomorrow’s stage. We did the recon and the last two kilometres are really steep and hard. We need to arrive there as fresh as we can and try to do our best, because for sure there will be differences.”

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